Ob Nixilis, the Adversary Art by Yongjae Choi

Standard Rakdos Aggro Deck Guide: Bo1 and Bo3 Lists

Looking to attack the Standard meta from a different angle? Look no further! Find out why DoggertQBones thinks Rakdos Aggro is a great option to circumvent the meta and dole out some pain to many of Standard's top decks!

Hello everyone!

Standard is in a weird spot right now. For the first time in as long as I can remember, the metagame feels really varied while simultaneously feeling a bit samey. How is that possible? For starters, Hinata decks are currently taking over Standard which is definitely a big part of it as the deck seems to go over all others, but that’s only part of it.

Beyond Hinata, a lot of the most popular decks seeing play have a pretty same feel to it. If you’re looking to play midrange, all the midrange decks more or less follow the same formula of being aggressively slanted with excellent interaction and grindy threats. If you’re playing Control, you are Izzet based with a lot of the same removal you see in the other control decks. Is this a bad thing? I wouldn’t say so, I’m still quite a big fan of Standard right now, but innovation seemed to have stopped.

So how can we kick start the metagame again to start seeing new decks? Well, we have to do it ourselves! To hit the metagame from an angle it’s not expecting you first have to establish two things: what strategy is being underrepresented and how it will play well into the existing metagame. A lot of decks right now are already slow, and now with Hinata’s dominance, are slowing down even more to help fight the attrition war in that matchup.

To that end, a lot of cheap removal is constantly getting cut in favor of either more powerful threats or more versatile removal. Furthermore, no matter what deck we’re playing, we do want to have enough interaction to not just get rolled by a good threat and/or play threats that are strong enough to match opposing ones. There’s a lot of directions we can take this prompt, but here’s the way I decided to tackle the metagame.

Rakdos Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Aggro
best of 3
7 mythic
29 rare
12 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Instants (5)
2
Play with Fire
$4.98
2
Infernal Grasp
$1.38
1
Soul Shatter
$1.49
Sorceries (1)
Enchantments (10)
Lands (22)
4
Mountain
$1.00
6
Swamp
$1.50
4
Haunted Ridge
$71.96
60 Cards
$323.24
Sideboard
2
Abrade
$0.50
2
Soul Shatter
$2.98
2
Duress
$0.50
1
Strangle
$0.25
3
Check for Traps
$0.75
2
Go Blank
$3.98
15 Cards
$9.71

With decks becoming greedier to help combat the deluge of midrange and control decks, I’m thinking it may be time to bust out the cheap creatures! I decided on Rakdos as I figured between Red and Black you have an awesome threat suite and great interaction so if you need to slow down your game plan, you can easily do that in the sideboard. Let’s talk threats.

As I will keep saying until I’m blue in the face, most aggro decks need to start at one mana to be good. In this case, we’re utilizing not one, but two of the powerful one mana sagas from Kamigawa! Kumano Faces Kakkazan is an excellent 1 drop that has seen so little play despite how powerful it is. A 1 drop that deals 1 damage on entry then can be functionally a 3/3 on stats is definitely not to be underestimated.

Similarly powerful, Okiba Reckoner Raid has a slightly lower ceiling, but will always perform as advertised. An evasive 1 drop that will always drain 2 life is pretty powerful especially if the opponent has to invest additional resources to ensure it doesn’t deal them anymore damage.

Moving up the curve we have an excellent array of 2 drops. To start us out, Tenacious Underdog is an absolute powerhouse coming out of New Capenna as it hits hard and is extremely difficult to keep down with it’s powerful Blitz ability.

Bloodtithe Harvester is another heater that we get to play as it hits hard or can kill creatures on it’s own with the activated ability giving it a lot of utility.

Finally, we have Valki, God of Lies which has struggled to see play despite how powerful it is, but it’s been rather excellent here. Whether you’re able to stuff the opponent out of a play, take a really threatening creature forcing them to remove Valki, or even just cast TIbalt, Valki has a lot of utility in an aggro deck even if it’s body is a little weaker than we’d like.

I’m pretty happy with the quality of my ones and two drops, but admittedly, I wouldn’t say it’s better than what you’d get in other colors. However, with the 3 drops, that changes completely. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary was initially hailed as the best card in Standard before it’s fall from grace, but this deck utilizes it better than any other shell previously could. With plenty of early creatures to sacrifice to the Casualty ability, we can pressure the slow decks incredibly hard with two Ob Nixilis ticking away as we establish even more pressure.

Graveyard Trespasser, albeit less exciting, has been similarly excellent for me in various aggressive strategies. A 3/3 that can drain life and require an additional card to kill is a huge pain for the many Izzet decks in the format for one reason or another.

Finally, we have Fable of the Mirror-Breaker which is easily one of the best 3 drops in Standard. Any card that can make two bodies that accrue value while filtering your hand is obviously giong to be excellent in pretty much any deck you can put it in!

For the final threat of the list, we have 4 Immersturm Predator. These were initially Goldspan Dragon, but with testing, I found two issues with Goldspan. One, skipping over 4 cmc in your curve entirely wasn’t great as it could lead to awkward hands. Two, Goldspan seems surprisingly easy to kill in this metagame. Between Dragon's Fire, Vanishing Verse, and board wipes, I felt Goldspan was too susceptible to removal while also being an inherent risk to play in a lower land count deck. With a lot of deliberation, I opted for Immersturm Predator which I’ve been happy with.

Immersturm does a lot of the things I wanted Goldspan to do without a lot of the risk built in. It’s a mana cheaper so it curves out better, it’s multicolored to avoid Vanishing Verse, and it doesn’t die to most of the removal being played right now. Furthermore, exile based removal is at an all time low with Skyclave Apparition and The Wandering Emperor not seeing much play. A big issue with Rakdos was that a Burn Down the House from Izzet decks would be really brutal as that would generally mop up my entire board, but now with 4 Immersturm Predator, it’s much more challenging for opponent’s to tap out for removal without the risk of dying to this in conjunction with a Tenacious Underdog or a creature land.

Just to quickly touch upon the interaction, we have 3 pieces in the main deck with varying uses. Play with Fire is cheap, but versatile. Infernal Grasp is consistent removal. Soul Shatter is a means to interact with Planeswalkers and kill annoying threats like Hinata and Goldspan Dragon without incurring a penalty. It may be weird to brush off the interaction as that’s one of the main reasons I’m playing Rakdos, but I feel that you get the best of it in the post board games when you can gear your interaction to the exact deck you’re facing.

Finally, if you’re looking to play this in Bo1, here’s the list I would recommend.

Bo1 Rakdos Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Standard
Aggro
best of 1
5 mythic
28 rare
13 uncommon
14 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (3)
Instants (5)
3
Play with Fire
$7.47
2
Infernal Grasp
$1.38
Sorceries (1)
Enchantments (12)
Lands (22)
4
Mountain
$1.00
6
Swamp
$1.50
4
Haunted Ridge
$71.96
60 Cards
$294.76

To help combat the more aggressive metagame, we trim down the curve ever so slightly to be better suited against fast starts. I believe this would be a reasonable option in Bo1, but likely not as tuned for it as my previous Mono Black Aggro build would be. Regardless, Rakdos is definitely customizable enough that it can suit your needs in the matchups you want to be the strongest against.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARD GUIDE

Graveyard Trespasser Art by Chris Rallis
Graveyard Trespasser Art by Chris Rallis

Jeskai Hinata

INOUT
+2 Soul Shatter-2 Valki, God of Lies
+2 Duress-2 Play with Fire
+3 Check for Traps-4 Kumano Faces Kakkazan
+2 Go Blank-2 Okiba Reckoner Raid
+1 Ray of Enfeeblement

Game one you’re hoping to get under Hinata with your excellent curve before they can deploy their devastating Hinata into Magma Opus combo. If they have it early, it’s extremely hard to win, but if they don’t, you can generally run them over.

In the post board game they’re going to have significantly more cheap removal so we have to shift gears a bit. Trying to aggro them out when they have so much interaction is ill-advised, so looking to play control their hand with 7 discard spells and a really good clock is the way to go. The only note I have with this plan is that I’m still unsure if keeping in Bloodtithe Harvester is better than the one mana sagas, but I do like that it hits a bit harder and the Blood can be relevant if the game is dragging on.

Jeskai Combo

INOUT
+2 Soul Shatter-4 Bloodtithe Harvester
+2 Duress-4 Immersturm Predator
+3 Check for Traps-2 Play with Fire
+2 Go Blank

While Hinata can be a challenging matchup, Jeskai Combo is probably one of our best matchups. With a slower clock and significantly less interaction, our game plan is pretty much the worst possible for this combo deck. Not only do we have a solid clock and curve, we have 7 discard spells to tear their hand apart to help ensure they never have the chance to combo. Worse yet, we also have 3 Soul Shatter so even if they resolve a Goldspan Dragon, there’s no guarantee they can even protect it.

We can obviously lose if their combo outspeeds our clock and we don’t have enough interaction to stop it, but with that, try to not keep hands that don’t have a reasonable clock and a piece of interaction. I’m not throwing away any hands with a good curve, but don’t be too greedy with your keeps.

Temur Control

INOUT
+2 Soul Shatter-2 Valki, God of Lies
+2 Duress-2 Play with Fire
+3 Check for Traps-4 Kumano Faces Kakkazan
+2 Go Blank-2 Okiba Reckoner Raid

This is very similar boarding to Jeskai Hinata, but thankfully, I find this matchup to be a lot easier. They definitely have great threats to go over the top of other decks, but they aren’t nearly as punishing as a Hinata into Magma Opus which makes this matchup much more bearable. Furthermore, our hand disruption is substantially better as there threats are slower so there’s a higher chance we can nab them before they come down.

Keep the pressure on, be wary of mass removal, and this matchup is rather good for Rakdos.

Esper Midrange

INOUT
+3 Ray of Enfeeblement-1 Graveyard Trespasser
+2 Soul Shatter-2 Play with Fire
-2 Okiba Reckoner Raid

Although the matchup is simple on paper, it’s very difficult in execution. There isn’t a huge amount of navigating going on so much as you curving out and hoping to get underneath them.

They are relatively fast so it’s hard to just kill them before they can put up a fight, but it mostly boils down to if the threats you draw match up well to the threats/answers they draw. Be aggressive and don’t give them too much time to find their strong cards as they will win the long game if you give them enough time.

Naya Runes

INOUT
+3 Ray of Enfeeblement-4 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary
+2 Abrade-2 Tenacious Underdog
+2 Soul Shatter-2 Okiba Reckoner Raid
+1 Strangle

Naya Runes is a traditionally hard matchup for aggressive decks, but thankfully for Rakdos, we have a lot of removal to help combat them. I would not keep a hand unless it had minimum two pieces of interaction as their threats will be substantially better than yours if you give them a few turns to grow. I would keep a solid curve with one removal spell, but that is definitely pretty risky despite us playing 17 pieces of meaningful interaction in the post board games.

Your game plan is very simple: deploy a few threats and kill everything that they put on the board. Generous Visitor is the lowest priority of all their threats so you could sandbag removal if that’s all they have, but it still may be worth the kill if you have a strong offense.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Immersturm Predator by Nicholas Gregory
Immersturm Predator Art by Nicholas Gregory
  • Although the Casualty ability on Ob Nixilis is quite powerful, you don’t always need to use it! Consider what the opponent may have as sometimes keeping your two drop is better than getting an additional Ob Nixilis. It’s rare, but does come up if you think they may be able to attack it down easily or you need Bloodtithe Harvester to kill something.
  • If you’re going to tick down either Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, do it on the main body first. The tokens aren’t legendary so if the original is killed, you can deploy another two copies of it.
  • Remember that although you are normally using the Blitz ability on Tenacious Underdog when it’s in the graveyard, you can use it when it’s in your hand as well for some surprise damage.
  • Keep in mind that you can only activate Bloodtithe Harvester as a sorcery.
  • Sometimes passing the turn with Graveyard Trespasser in play to flip it to night is better than deploying a threat. I only do this when the 4/4 body is extremely relevant and/or I need to exile cards out of the graveyard quickly.
  • Never exile creature cards with Immersturm Predator unless they have ways to recur them. Try to save those for Graveyard Trespasser.
  • If you manage to get two Reflection of Kiki-Jiki out from Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, you can do a cute interaction on the opponent’s end step of constantly copying the Reflection to get a 2/2 for 1 mana that will last until the next end step. I’ve gotten many surprise kills with this interaction!

Thank you for reading!

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DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on
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